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(Yes, this is yet another take on the "plot" to blow up fuel tanks/lines at JFK. I would be remiss not to recommend other fine perspectives, like The Angry Rakkasan, Walt starr, clammyc. I build on their observations and add a few more of my own.)

Another day, another “terrorist plot” thwarted—so glad we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here (more on that in a moment).

This past Saturday saw a US Attorney announce the indictments of four men with sketchy plans to blow up fuel tanks and/or pipelines that supply jet fuel to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens.

Why JFK airport? Jump with me to find out. . . .

Here’s what the plot’s “mastermind” Russell Defreitas had to say:

"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow ... they love JFK -- he's like the man," former JFK airport cargo worker Russell Defreitas allegedly said in a telephone conversation monitored by the FBI.

"If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice," Defreitas allegedly added

OK, show of hands, when I say JFK airport, how many of you still get all sentimental over Camelot? Hell, I live in NYC, often fly in and out of JFK, and am old enough (well, let’s say, “almost old enough”) to remember when people actually did get all choked up about the late president, and I cannot remember the last time I made the mental connection between the airport and its namesake.

But, while illustrative of my point, this is possibly the least of it. Defreitas, 63, a naturalized US Citizen from Guyana, and his co-conspirators apparently had zero technical knowledge and zero military training—not to mention zero money and zero explosives. To say that this plot was disrupted in its “planning” stages is an insult to procrastinators everywhere.

Oh, but, wait, apparently, these guys were “persistent,” according to investigators, and. . . wait for it. . . they had satellite images of the airport obtained from the internet.

OH. . . MY. . . GOD! Look at me, ma! I’m a terrorist!

All kidding aside (OK, some kidding aside), if guys are going around trying to get it together to blow something up—anything, really—law enforcement should probably intervene. But, is what we have here a case of terrorism interrupted? Have the DoJ, DHS, the FBI, and the NYPD thwarted a group of Islamic terrorists, or have they done little more than publicly shame a loose collection of idiot dreamers?

And, pardon my skepticism, but I am yet to be convinced that these guys were even as pitifully far along—and that would be not that far along at all—as the government says. Being a New Yorker, I am all too familiar with the case of the alleged Brooklyn Bridge plotter—a poor schlub who was clearly led down the path to prison by a zealous informant who was himself egged on by investigators. This JFK “plot,” too, relies on the work of a government informant, one currently awaiting his sentence for drug trafficking.

Further, even if we are to believe that Defreitas and friends had a “plot,” as it is outlined in reports, it was far from feasible on many fronts. Beyond the fact that blowing a hole in a fuel tank at JFK would almost certainly NOT cause a chain reaction that would send explosions and fire through the pipelines that lead into the tanks and the supply lines to the airplane gates, the “plotters” had planned to blow up the tanks with dynamite, which experts say would not get the job done (the walls would require several pounds of plastique, they say).

All of which is to say, much like Michael Powell and William Rashbaum said in today’s New York Times:

In case after case, from what authorities said was a dirty bomber to the Lackawanna Six, federal prosecutors hail arrests of terrorists and disruptions of what they describe as sinister plots. But as these legal cases unfold, the true nature of the threats can come into question.

(And while I might have been a little less diplomatic than Powell and Rashbaum, I want to congratulate them for actually putting it out there. Contrast their tone with that of Jeanne Meserve on CNN. It was her report that first told me that the fuel tank plot was likely not a prescription for mass disaster, it was there that I learned that plastic explosives would be required to breach a tank, and it was there that two experts appeared on camera to debunk the notion that this was a well-conceived plan. But it was in the intro and in the conclusion to Meserve’s piece that she insisted on saying that “expert opinion” was “split” on whether the plot would have worked. The only evidence of a split? An unnamed government aviation spokesman. That really doesn’t tell me “experts” are divided—especially since two of the actual experts were just on camera agreeing this was an ill-conceived plot—but it does tell me that CNN still clings to the false notions that administration spokespeople are credible, and that unbiased reporting means always presenting a counterpoint, even when it is devoid of substance, and then claiming there are two sides to the story.)

Now, let’s look at some of that true nature: None of the suspects in this current terrorist-like plot have connections to al-Qaeda. In fact, Defreitas and his family are Shiites. A couple of his children have spent time studying in Iran, but there is nothing out there right now to can dissuade me—or, in fact, the government—from calling this plot “homegrown.” If there are out-of-country links here (and I feel funny even putting it this way since this is such a half-baked affair), they are to Guyana and Trinidad. Iraq is not in the picture.

What is in the picture is another part of the Middle East, one that the Bush Administration has steadfastly refused to consider might be important to their “Global War on Terror.”

In one conversation taped by the FBI, Defreitas allegedly discusses an incident he says motivated him to strike JFK. He claimed he saw military parts being shipped to Israel, including missiles, that he felt would be used to kill Muslims.

He allegedly says he "wanted to do something to get those bastards."

As many have noted, one of the greatest failings of Bush’s foreign policy has been his unwillingness to tackle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with any kind of seriousness or political will. The administration’s rhetorical and logistical embrace of Ehud Olmert’s Lebanese fiasco only exacerbated the problem. If Bush & Co. really wanted to do something about growing anti-American feelings in the Muslim diaspora, they would de-emphasize making war in Iraq and Iran, and re-emphasize making peace in Israel and Palestine. Russell Defreitas and his “coconspirators” only serve to reinforce that point.

And, while we’re talking about terrorists and their plots here in the US, what’s the latest on that whole anthrax thing? Anyone got a handle on that one? How about all the plots to bomb abortion clinics? What’s new there?

Yeah, thought so. . . .

But, rather than get serious about what’s real, or about what really might be the roots of our problems, administration apparatchiks would rather get all “lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!” over the weekend warriors from jihadi fantasy camp (and even that gives Defreitas, or the guys in Miami, or the “Fort Dix Six” too much credit). And that doesn’t serve the prosecution of these small time hoods any more than it does the so-called GWOT.

Raising the stakes on what should be low-level cases only makes convicting them on what they actually did do much harder, and makes it much more difficult to investigate future plots. As former federal prosecutor and once head of the criminal division in the US attorney’s office in Miami, Neal R. Sonnett notes:

There unfortunately has been a tendency to shout too loudly about such cases.

It has a bit of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight to it. It would have served the federal government well to say that.

. . . .

To the extent that you over-hype a case, you create fear and paranoia. It’s very difficult for prosecutors and investigative agencies to remain calm.

As Sonnett and the Times article imply, the drumbeating creates a climate of fear that drives public policy. I would add that such is no doubt the intention of the Bush Administration. Rather than looking for ways to effectively fight so-called terrorists here and “there” to help make Americans everywhere safer, idiots and ideologues in the Department of Homeland Security, or the Justice Department, or in many other US government agencies are looking for a steady stream of public relations victories to fuel the fear-based economy.

I believe it was a retired general who said this (and forgive me for not being able to find the exact quote): While it is understandable that Americans would be fearful following the attacks of 9/11/01, it is the job of our president to lead us away from fear, and not to constantly reinforce it.

(cross-posted from capitoilette)

UPDATE: A clarification—early reports were confusing, and so I was confused. I conflated two of the suspects in this “plot.” When I wrote in my post about a Shiite with family members that have studied in Iran, I realize now, thanks to another good Times piece by Manny Fernandez, that I was referring to Abdul Kadir, and not Russell Defreitas. Defreitas, it seems, was a sometimes homeless, often down-on-his luck, barely literate, former JFK employee who is divorced and estranged from most of his family. Kadir is the practicing Shiite with a degree in civil engineering. It is Kadir that was once a Mayor and Member of Parliament in Guyana, and it is he that has the large family, some members of which traveled to Iran. I apologize for the error.

I recommend the entire Fernandez piece—it makes this so-called terror plot seem even more improbable.

Originally posted to Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 04:33 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "Fort Dix Lite" (12+ / 0-)

    Update: NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston is quoting an FBI source that calls this JFK plot “Fort Dix lite.” Yes, that’s right, this plot was less well put together than the hysterically unimpressive plan to attack Fort Dix planned by the Circuit City Six.

    Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

    by Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 04:33:56 AM PDT

  •  My own story...JFK Apathy (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Red Wind, kurt, gem spa, JeffW, MsWings

    At a busy time this weekend, I posted alittle personal story about how really concerned Homeland Security is about solving alleged plots. This one, by coincidence, also involved JFK.

    If you look back at the announcements, the indictments, prosecutions and ultimately the lack of convictions in these periodic "major busts" you can see the pattern. Run a correlation between bad news for the administration and the bust of an alleged plot--it's pretty near 1.0.

    •  very interesting story (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gem spa, MsWings

      Do you really think what you saw back in 2001 had any ties to the crash?

      Either way, I completely hear you on the frustration and suspicion index.

      Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

      by Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 05:06:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was so odd... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gem spa, MsWings

        and so totally different from what the security guards were told, it had to relate to something. The "brothers" were so angry (and there obviously was not only one brother), the poor young Guardsman so inept (despite that big weapon), and the coincidence that the very same flight crashed the next morning...would make you think that someone--FBI, airport, or a news agency--would at least ask a question. They simply did not want to know. (In the sight of the videotaper was the Concorde, El Al, and security on that concourse. Could have been anything.)

        I've done a bit of research on the "metal fatigue" explanation that they finally settled upon for that accident. It is a real stretch. Engineers say: "That's all they could come up with." Perhaps.

        But the fact that no one would even call back, ask a question, or say: "Thanks for the info" convinced me that they were selecting an explanation they wanted and going with it.

  •  Regardless of whether this group had the (0+ / 0-)

    requisite skills to carry out their plot, I for one am glad the gov't is investigating and arresting them.  As to using an informer, perhaps if we had an informer in on the 911 jihad attacks, that could have been prevented.  

  •  Another "Informant " Generated "Plot" (7+ / 0-)

    This supposed terror plot is absurd. The role of the CI (confidential informant) is murky, but apparently he was someone with drug conviction trying to get in good graces to reduce his sentence.

    Sounds like he infiltrated a drug smuggling ring and his superiors (FBI etc.) steered him to encourage  a terrorist attack, no matter ridiculous and absurd the plot is.

    A whole bunch of hooey.

    'It's deja vu all over again'-Yogi Berra

    by frandor55 on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:28:20 AM PDT

  •  I am sure (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AggieDemocrat, Red Wind, kurt, gem spa, MsWings

    I ams sure our crack Homeland security have other possible terrorist like Wile E Coyote, and his supplier ACME under watch as we speak.

    Generals gathered in their masses Just like witches at black masses.. Evil minds that plot destruction Sorcerers of deaths construction..........

    by pissedpatriot on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 06:49:18 AM PDT

  •  Kudos for your title! Love it, and the thought (6+ / 0-)

    behind it, one of my pet peeves, if you can say such a thing about such an important matter. The public has to catch onto this, in time. But there are those who are frightened of their own shadows and they willl take these supposed plots to heart.

    I remember my friend telling me after 9/11 that her family, living in NC, her parents retired, were seriously considering relocating the whole family to northern Mexico to get away from the danger of terrorists. At the time we were living in in a small town in Western NC, really one of the safest spots in the country I suppose. It was bizarre how afraid everyone was.

    But now we know better.

    The sky is NOT falling. Yay!

    (the Bush WH) dense web of deceit is the deliberate product of its amoral culture, not a haphazard potpourri of individual blunders. F. Rich

    by Gorette on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 08:38:09 PM PDT

    •  Yep - one of the best titles ever (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Red Wind, occams hatchet, deha, tonyfv

      And a great diary as well. Thanks to the Diary Rescue squad for rescuing it.

    •  Thanks! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gorette, kurt

      I am repeatedly amazed at the cowardice of our current "leadership." I live in NYC. I saw the towers go down before my eyes. It was horrible. It was scary. But I am not scared. . . at least not in the way Bush & Co. would have me be scared.

      The fact is, that, in reality, the attacks of 9/11 failed. They did not destroy our economy or our culture, and they did not force us to leave the Middle East. But to listen to the administration, you would think these guys just captured and killed the unimaginable hybrid of Mom, the White House, and McDonald's.

      Now how are we to trust rulers who misunderstand the situation so?

      I am also amazed that more in the opposition don't call these guys out on their cowardice. . . though, perhaps, I shouldn't be.

      It is Bush and Cheney that think America is so weak that a few thousand jihdis must force us to change everything we hold dear. How shameful.

      Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

      by Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 08:56:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mnay moons ofago, friends of mine (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Red Wind, kurt

    hacked into DoD for a lark. Today that coudl get them arrested and sent to Gitmo as terorrsits.

    This reminds me of what happened when someone sent what was (or maybe was only believed to be) anthrax toa  Kansas TV station. Did the F.B.I. look at miltiias or White supremacists (after all the letters sent to NYC were all to LIBERAL--or perceived--as LIBERAL types)or anti-choice types who might have been behind this? We'd already HAD Oklahoma?

    Nope. They were looking at a group of Wiccans whose main fault seems to be peacefully protesting a couple of times for environmental causes. They admitted that ot was pretty far fetched, but there was always the possibility that these folks with no criminal records and NO evidence of ever advocating violence against anyone or anything, well, one of them might have flipped out.

    This makes about as much sense. I'd want to se ea lot more evidence before I'd be willing to indict--but I doubt I'll get the chance. One-way ticket to Gitmo time.

    The last time we mixed religion and politics people got burned at the stake.

    by irishwitch on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 09:08:53 PM PDT

  •  Alleged British airliner plot of 2006 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AggieDemocrat, Red Wind

    That was another good one. I just searched BBC news for latest news on that and it seems there is no news on that. Buried. Nice timing, August 2006, and as I recall, the US urged the British to act on that before they were ready to. Yeah, before the US elections.

    Yet another attempt at election fraud.

    •  It was just AFTER the CT primary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I don't expect you'll find much about that plot. The US forced the UK's hand, and within a week of the revelation, the "imminence" of that "plot" also began to unravel.

      I blogged a bit about it at the time.

      Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

      by Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 10:24:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just found a story about it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Red Wind, kurt published a follow up a couple of weeks ago. The writer also seems to believe it was another "cry wolf" story. He debunks the possibility of the plot causing "hundreds of casualties" as Chertoff said. And we still have the liquids ban every time we fly - the never ending "WoT" (TM).

        Here is the link:

        Your blog is also excellent, and amazing that so soon after the incident you gathered all that data.


        •  ah, yes, the liquids. . . (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Spoc42, kurt, tonyfv

          More "security theater," as I like to call it.

          Thanks for the update--cool that you found that--and thanks for going back and reading the old post. . .

          and, of course, thanks for the compliments.

          Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

          by Red Wind on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 10:48:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Red Wind, kurt

    I, too, laughed at the notion that blowing up JFK (and, as has been diaried here, their "plot" would hardly do that) wouldn't bring out the Kennedy lovers and set them all into shock and put them all in hospital for trauma. I'm a Jack Kennedy fan and I barely make the connection to the person, as you say.

    Also, that satellite image thing is hilarious. It's called Google Earth, and apparently the DHS has never heard of it. Jeez, people, it's not like they've got Keyhole satellite images hacked from the CIA or anything. Shit, by that logic I should be scared shitless because Osama has a picture of my house from space. (Maybe I could get Google to blur it like they do Dickhead Cheney's house.)

    Your world, upside-down! Visit Sydneysided, my view of the world as a Texan, Aggie and Democrat living Down Under.

    by AggieDemocrat on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 11:20:31 PM PDT

    Recommended by:
    Red Wind, Spoc42


    Film at 11 . .


    Thanks for the diary. Great title.

    As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

    by occams hatchet on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 11:58:35 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, o.h! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      occams hatchet

      Forgive my ignorance, I am trying think of an actual incident where W acted as a gov't. informant. I mean, everything else checks out, so I was just wondering. . . .

      Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

      by Red Wind on Tue Jun 05, 2007 at 01:32:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  America has lost its collective marbles (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Red Wind

    to even buy into this crap.  Drumbeat of terror striking fear into the hearts of mice, why? it's only the cat stalking for prey, or the sharks patrolling their waters.

    I have been pondering recently on what appears to be an ever increasing Bell curve of idiocy evidenced by the moronic comments on talk radio and interactive participatory television such as CSPAN's Washington Journal, BBC's 'World have your Say' etc. I can't bring myself to listen to the vituperation spewed forth by rightwing bigots such as Limbaugh,Hannity and Savage, so those are the more reasonable voices adding to the air pollution.

    Is it just because when everyone has the right to speak their minds when given the opportunity the compulsion to do so becomes irrestible. Was it always so? or was I just not listening before?

    Has the nation always been so mean-spirited, hateful and vicious toward their legal neighbours and positively murderous toward their illegal neighbours. As for Muslims, Arabs,Mexican, who have replaced Blacks, Irish and Poles as the selected targets presenting assorted threats to the well being of upstanding American citizens whose inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is being challenged by dirty foreigners, willing to work for less, I wish I could find someone to fix my roof without taking out a second mortgage and giving the workers universal health benefits into the bargain.

    The entire nation has become utterly xenophobic, I always thought that was the exclusive domain of the Brits and Europeans. But now in America on subjects such as terrorism, Border control, immigration, the entire nation seems to be suffering from mass psychosis. Maybe we should start charging for speeech, maybe the tone and tenor might improve.

    Is this what fear does to the mass psyche of an entire diverse people?

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